INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS FOR BODY TRANSPORT
League of Nations
International Arrangement concerning the conveyance of corpses
Signed at Berlin, February 10th, 1937
Desirous of avoiding the difficulties resulting from differences in the regulations
concerning the conveyance of corpses, and considering the convenience of laying
down uniform regulations in the matter, the undersigned Governments undertake
to accept the entry into their territory, or the passage in transit through
their territory, of the corpses of persons deceased on the territory of any
one of the other contracting countries on condition that the following regulations
are complied with:
A. General Regulations
For the conveyance of any corpse by any means and under any conditions, a special
laissez-passer (laissez-passer for a corpse) complying as far as possible with
the model annexed hereto, and in any case stating the surname, first name and
age of the deceased person, and the place, date and cause of decease, shall
be required; the said laissez-passer shall be issued by the competent authority
for the place of decease or the place of burial in the cases of corpses exhumed.
It is recommended that the laissez-passer should be made out, not only in the
language of the country issuing it, but also in at least one of the languages
most frequently used in international relations.
Neither the country of destination nor the countries of transit shall require,
over and above such papers as are required under international conventions for
the purpose of transports in general, any document other than the laissez-passer
provided for in the preceding Article. The said laissez-passer shall not be
issued by the responsible authority, save on presentation of:
- A certified true copy of the death certificate;
- Official certificates to the effect that conveyance of the corpse is not
open to objection from the point of view of health or from the medico-legal
point of view, and that the corpse has been placed in a coffin in accordance
with the regulations laid down in the present Arrangement.
Corpses must be placed in a metal coffin, the bottom of which has been covered
with a layer of approximately 5 cm. of absorbent matter such as peat, sawdust,
powdered charcoal or the like with the addition of an antiseptic substance.
Where the cause of decease was a contagious disease, the corpse itself shall
be wrapped in a shroud soaked in an antiseptic solution.
The metal coffin must thereupon be hermetically closed (soldered) and fitted
into a wooden coffin in such a manner as to preclude movement. The wooden coffin
shall be of a thickness of not less than 3 cm.: its joints must be completely
water-tight: and it must be closed by means of screws not more than 20 cm. distant
from one another, and strengthened by metal hoops.
Conveyances of the corpses of persons deceased by reason of plague, cholera,
small-pox or typhus shall not be authorised as between the territories of the
Contracting Parties until one year at the earliest after the decease.
B. Special Regulations
In the case of transport by rail, the following regulations shall apply over
and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:
- Coffins must be conveyed in a closed wagon, save where they are handed
over for conveyance in a closed hearse, and remain in the same.
- Each country shall be responsible for fixing the time limit within which
the body must be removed on arrival. Where the consignor produces satisfactory
proof that the corpse will effectively be removed within such time-limit,
the coffin need not be accompanied.
- No articles may be transported along with the coffin other than wreaths,
bunches of flowers and the like.
- Coffins must be despatched by the speediest route and, as far as possible,
In the case of motor transport, the following regulations shall apply over
and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:
- Coffins must be conveyed preferably in a special hearse or, failing such,
in an ordinary closed van.
- No articles may be transported along with the coffin other than wreaths,
bunches of flowers and the like.
In the case of transport by air, the following regulations shall apply over
and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:
- Coffins must be conveyed either in an aircraft specially and solely used
for the purpose or in a special compartment solely reserved for the purpose
in an ordinary aircraft.
- No articles may be transported along with the coffin in the same aircraft
or in the same compartment, other than wreaths, bunches of flowers and the
In the case of transport by sea, the following regulations shall apply over
and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:
- The wooden coffin containing the metal coffin in accordance with the provisions
of Article 3 must itself be packed in an ordinary wooden case in such a manner
as to preclude movement.
- The said case, with its contents, must be so placed as to exclude any contact
with foodstuffs or articles for consumption and to preclude inconvenience
to the passengers or crew of any kind.
Where decease takes place on board ship, the body must be preserved under the
same conditions as those provided for in Article 8 above. The documents and
certificates required under Article 2 shall be made out in accordance with the
law of the country whose flag the vessel flies, and transport shall take place
in the same manner as in the case of a corpse shipped on board.
Where the decease takes place less than 48 hours before the arrival of the
vessel in the port at which the burial is to take place, and the material required
for the strict observance of the provisions laid down in paragraph (a) of Article
8 is not available on board, the corpse, wrapped in a shroud soaked in an antiseptic
solution, may be placed in a coffin of solid wood of planks of not less than
3 cm. thick with watertight joints, closed by screws. The bottom of the coffin
must previously have been covered with a layer of approximately 5 cm. of absorbent
material such as peat, sawdust, powdered charcoal or the like with the addition
of an antiseptic substance. The coffin must thereupon be fitted into a wooden
case in such a manner as to preclude movement. The provisions of this paragraph
shall not apply where death was due to one of the diseases specified in Article
This Article shall not apply to vessels whose voyages do not exceed 24 hours,
if in the event of a decease on board they hand over the corpse to the competent
authorities as soon as they arrive at the port at which it is to be handed over.
C. Final Provisions
The provisions, both general and specific, of the present Arrangement embody
the maximum requirements (other than in the matter of charges) which may be
stipulated in connection with the acceptance of corpses coming from any one
of the contracting countries. The said countries remain free to grant greater
facilities, either by means of bilateral arrangements or by decisions in particular
cases arrived at by common accord.
The present Arrangement shall not apply to the conveyance of corpses between
The present Arrangement applies to international transport of corpses immediately
after decease or exhumation. Nothing therein contained shall in any way affect
the regulations in force in the respective countries in respect of burial and
The present Arrangement shall not apply to the transport of ashes.
D. Protocol Clauses
The present Arrangement shall bear todays date, and may be signed within
six months as from that date.
The present Arrangement shall be ratified, and the instruments of ratification
shall be transmitted to the German Government as soon as possible.
As soon as five ratifications have been deposited, the German Government shall
draw up a proces-verbal to that effect. It shall transmit copies of the proces-verbal
to the Governments of the High Contracting Parties and the Office International
dHygiene publique. The present Arrangement shall come into force on the
120th day after the date of the said proces-verbal.
Every subsequent deposit of ratifications shall be put on record by means of
a proces-verbal drawn up and communicated in accordance with the procedure laid
down above. The present Arrangement shall come into force in respect of each
of the High Contracting Parties on the 120th day after the date of the proces-verbal
putting on record the deposit of its ratifications.
Countries not signatories to the present Arrangement may accede to the same
at any time from the date of the proces-verbal putting on record the deposit
of the first five ratifications.
Each accession shall be made by means of notification through the diplomatic
channel of the German Government. The said Government shall deposit the act
of accession in its archives; it shall immediately notify the Governments of
all the countries Parties to the Arrangement and the Office International dHygiene
publique notifying the date of deposit. Each accession shall take effect on
the 120th day from that date.
Each of the High Contracting Parties may declare at the time of signature,
ratification or accession, that by its acceptance of the present Arrangement
it does not intend to undertake any obligation in respect of all or part of
its colonies, protectorates, overseas territories or territories placed under
its suzerainty or mandate; in which case the present Arrangement shall not apply
to territories in respect of which such a declaration has been made.
Each of the High Contracting Parties may later notify the German Government
that it intends to make the present Arrangement applicable to all or part of
its territories which were the subject of the declaration provided for in the
previous paragraph; in which case the Arrangement shall apply to the territories
named in the notification on the 120th day from the date of the deposit of the
same in the archives of the German Government.
Likewise, every High Contracting Party may at any time after the expiry of
the time limit specified in Article 16 declare that it intends that the application
of the present Arrangement to all or part of its colonies, protectorates, overseas
territories or territories placed under its suzerainty or mandate shall cease;
in which case the Arrangement shall cease to apply to the territories which
are the subject of such declaration one year after the deposit of the same in
the archives of the German Government.
The German Government shall notify the Governments of all the countries Parties
to the present Arrangement and the Office International dHygiene publique
of the notifications and declarations made under the above provision, communicating
to them the date of deposit of such notifications or declarations in its archives.
The Government of any country Party to the present Arrangement may, at any
time after the Arrangement has been in force in respect of the Government for
five years, denounce it by written notification communicated through the diplomatic
channel to the German Government. The German Government shall deposit the notice
of denunciation in its archives. It shall immediately notify the Governments
of all the countries Parties to the Arrangement and the Office International
dHygiene publique, communicating to them the date of deposit. Every denunciation
shall take effect one year after that date.
The signature of the present Arrangement may not be accompanied by any reservation
which has not been previously approved by those High Contracting Parties who
are already signatories. Likewise, ratifications or accessions accompanied by
reservations which have not been previously approved by all countries Parties
to the Convention shall not be put on record.
In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries, provided with full powers
recognised in good and due form, have signed the present Arrangement.
Done at Berlin on February 10th, 1937, in one single copy which shall remain deposited
in the archives of the German Government, and certified true copies of which shall
be communicated through the diplomatic channel to each of the High Contracting
Annex to Appendix A
Laissez-passer for a corpse
regulations concerning the placing in the coffin having been observed,
the corpse of ..............................................................
first name and profession of the deceased; in the case of children,
profession of father and mother) deceased on ............. at .........
, by reason of ....................... (cause of decease), at the age
of .............................. years (exact date of birth if possible),
is to be conveyed ........................ ....................... (means
of transport), from ............................... (place of departure)
via .......................... (route), to ....................... (place
The transport of this corpse having been duly authorized, all and sundry
authorities over whose territory the corpse is to be conveyed are requested
to let it pass without let or hindrance.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
AGREEMENT ON THE TRANSFER OF CORPSES
Signed at Strasbourg, October 26th, 1973
The member State of the Council of Europe, signatory hereto,
Considering that there is an increasing need to simplify formalities relating
to the international transfer of corpses,
Bearing in mind that the transfer of corpses does not create a risk to health
even if death was due to a communicable disease provided that appropriate measures
are taken, in particular with regard to the imperviousness of the coffin,
Have agreed as follows:
- The Contracting Parties shall apply, as between themselves, the provisions
of this Agreement.
- For the purpose of this Agreement, transfer of corpses is understood to
be the international transport of human remains from the State of departure
to the State of destination; the State of departure is that in which the transfer
began; in the case of exhumed remains, it is that in which burial had taken
place; the State of destination is that in which the corpse is to be buried
or cremated after the transport.
- This Agreement shall not apply to the international transport of ashes.
- The provisions of this Agreement embody the maximum requirements which may
be stipulated in connection with the despatch of corpses from, their transit
through, or their admission to the territory of a Contracting Party.
- The Contracting Parties remain free to grant greater facilities either
by means of bilateral agreements or by decisions arrived at by common accord
in special cases and in particular in the case of transfer between frontier
For such agreements or decisions to be applicable in any given case, the consent
of all the States involved must be obtained.
- Any corpse shall, during the transfer, be accompanied by a special document
(laissez-passer for a corpse) issued by the competent authority for the State
- The laissez-passer shall include at least the information set out in the
model annexed to the present Agreement; it shall be made out in the official
language or one of the official languages of the State in which it was issued
and in one of the official languages of the Council of Europe.
With the exception of the documents required under international conventions
and agreements relating to transport in general, or future conventions or arrangements
on the transfer of corpses, neither the State of destination not the transit
State shall require any documents other than the laissez-passer for a corpse.
The laissez-passer is issued by the competent authority referred to in Article
8 of this Agreement, after it has ascertained that:
- all the medical, health, administrative and legal requirements of the regulations
in force in the State of departure relating to the transfer of corpses and,
where appropriate, burial and exhumation have been complied with;
- the remains have been placed in a coffin which complies with the requirements
laid down in Articles 6 and 7 of this Agreement;
- the coffin only contains the remains of the person named in the laissez-passer
and such personal effects as are to be buried with the corpse.
- The coffin must be impervious; the inside must contain absorbent material.
If the competent authority of the State of departure consider it necessary
the coffin must be provided with a purifying device to balance the internal
and external pressures. It may consist of:
- either an outer coffin in wood with sides at least 20 mm. thick and
an inner coffin of zinc carefully soldered or of any other material which
is self destroying;
- or a single coffin in wood with sides at least 30 mm. thick lined with
a sheet of zinc or of any other material which is self destroying.
- If the cause of death is a contagious disease, the body itself shall be
wrapped in a shroud impregnated with an antiseptic solution.
- Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article
the coffin, if it is to be transferred by air, shall be provided with a purifying
device or, failing this, present such guarantees of resistance as are recognised
to be adequate by the competent authority of the State of departure.
If the coffin is to be transported like an ordinary consignment, it shall be
packaged so that it no longer resembles a coffin, and it shall be indicated
that it be handled with care.
Each Contracting Party shall communicate to the Secretary General of the Council
of Europe the designation of the competent authority referred to in Article
13, paragraph 1, Article 5 and Article 6, paragraphs 1 and 3 of this Agreement.
If a transfer involves a third State which is Party to the Berlin Arrangement
concerning the conveyance of corpses of 10 February 1937, any Contracting State
to this Agreement may require another Contracting State to take such measures
as are necessary for the former Contracting State to fulfil its obligations
under the Berlin Arrangement.
- This Agreement shall be open to signature by the member States of the Council
of Europe, who may become parties to it either by:
- Signature to it without reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance,
- Signature with reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance,
followed by ratification or acceptance.
- Instruments of ratification or acceptance shall be deposited with the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe.
- This Agreement shall enter into force one month after the date on which
three member States of the Council shall have become Parties to the Agreement,
in accordance with the provisions of Article 10.
- As regards any member State who shall subsequently sign the Agreement without
reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance or who shall ratify or
accept it, the Agreement shall enter into force one month after the date of
such signature or after the date of deposit of the instrument of ratification
- After the entry into force of this Agreement, the Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe may invite any non-member State to accede thereto.
- Such accession shall be effected by depositing with the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe an instrument of accession which shall take effect
one month after the date of its deposit.
- Any Contracting Party may, at the time of signature or when depositing its
instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession, specify the territory
or territories to which this Agreement shall apply.
- Any Contracting Party may, when depositing its instrument of ratification,
acceptance or accession or at any later date, by declaration addressed to
the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, extend this Agreement to any
other territory or territories specified in the declaration and for whose
international relations it is responsible or on whose behalf it is authorised
to give undertakings.
- Any declaration made in pursuance of the preceding paragraph may, in respect
of any territory mentioned in such declaration, be withdrawn according to
the procedure laid down in article 14 of this Agreement.
- This Agreement shall remain in force indefinitely.
- Any Contracting Party may, insofar as it is concerned denounce this Agreement
by means of a notification a addressed to the Secretary General of the Council
- Such denunciation shall take effect six months after the date of receipt
by the Secretary General of such notification.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the member States
of the Council and any State which has acceded to this Agreement of:
- any signature without reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance;
- any signature with reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance;
- the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession;
- any date of entry into force of this Agreement, in accordance with Article
- any declaration received in pursuance of the provisions of paragraphs 2
and 3 of Article 13
- any notification received in pursuance of the provisions of Article 14
and the date on which the denunciation takes effect;
- any communications made to him under Article 8.
In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed
Done at Strasbourg, this 26th day of October 1973, in the English and French
languages, both texts being equally authoritative, in a single copy which shall
remain deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General
of the Council of Europe shall transmit certified copies to each of the signatory
and acceding State
Annex to Appendix B
Laissez-passer for a corpse
is issued in accordance with the Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses,
in particular Articles 3 and 5 (1).
Authority is hereby given for the removal of the body of:
Name and first name of the deceased ......................................
died on .................................. at .......................................
of death (if possible) (2) and (3) ............................
at the age of ............................. years ...............................
Date and place of birth (if possible) .........................................
The body is to be conveyed .................................... (means
from ................................ (place of departure)
via ............................... (route)
to ............................. (destination)
of this corpse having been duly authorised, all and sundry authorities
of the States over whose territory the corpse is to be conveyed are requested
to let it pass without let or hindrance.
Done at .......................
Signature of the competent authority Official stamp of the competent authority
- The text of Articles 3 and 5 of the Agreement is to appear on the reverse
side of the laissez-passer
- The cause of death should be stated in English or French or in the numerical
WHO code of the international classification of diseases.
- If cause of death is not stated for reasons of professional secrecy then
a certificate indicating the cause of death should be placed in a sealed envelope
accompanying the corpse during transport and be presented to the competent
authority in the State of destination. The sealed envelope, which shall bear
some external indication for identification purposes, shall be securely attached
to the laissez-passer.
Alternatively, an indication should be made on the laissez-passer as to whether
the person died of natural causes and of a non-contagious disease.
If this is not the case, the circumstances of death or the nature of the contagious
disease should be indicated.
XVII PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE
XVIII REGIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING
Adopted in Washington, October 7th, 1966
INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION OF HUMAN REMAINS
THE XVII PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE....
- To approve and transmit to the Governments of the Organization the following
Declaration and Regulations concerning the International Transportation of
The greater ease of communications today and the considerable increase in tourism
make the international transportation of human remains a matter of practical
interest that justifies the establishment of uniform standards.
The international transportation of human remains should be simplified so as
not to increase the problems of the families with complicated and unnecessary
procedures that appear to overlook the moral and social considerations involved
in such cases.
It is possible to simplify the administrative procedures involved in obtaining
authorization for the international transportation of human remains if it is
borne in mind that, contrary to a deep rooted opinion, a corpse does not constitute
a health risk even when death was due to a quarantinable or communicable disease,
since its power to infect disappears when it is suitably embalmed.
Embalming might become the general practice in the countries of the Americas
since it is the most appropriate method of preserving human remains; however,
this in no way implies that other, simpler, and equally effective methods, cannot
also be used.
Article 1. International transportation of human remains is understood to be
the shipment of the body from the country where the death occurred to the country
of its final destination after either death or disinterment.
Article 2. The transportation of bodies between frontier districts within 48
hours after death shall not be subject to these standards.
Article 3. For the purpose of these standards an impervious coffin shall be
any container or box, of whatever material, which can be hermetically sealed
and so maintained by plastic or rubber gasket or by metal or similar material
which has been soldered or welded. The body may also be encased in a plastic
container which has been sealed by heat or by adhesive materials prior to being
placed in a non-impervious coffin, and which, for the purpose of these standards,
will be considered the same as an impervious coffin.
Article 4. For international transportation of human remains, the following
documents shall be required:
- An official certificate of cause of death issued by the local registrar
of death, or similar authority;
- A statement by the person authorized to prepare the remains, certified by
an appropriate authority, indicating the manner and method in which the body
was prepared and indicating that the coffin contains only the body in question
and necessary clothing and packing;
- A transit permit stating the surname, first name and age of the deceased
person, issued by the competent authority for the place of death, or the place
of burial in the case of exhumed human remains, and;
- Copies of the documentation required under subparagraphs a, b, and c shall
accompany the shipment of remains. The outside of the coffin should bear an
immovable plaque or other appropriate marking, in a conspicuous place, indicating
name, age and place of final destination of the body.
Article 5. The human remains shall be subject to the following measures:
- Thorough washing with an effective disinfectant; disinfection of all orifices;
packing of all orifices with cotton saturated with an effective disinfectant;
wrapping in a sheet saturated with an effective disinfectant; and placing
in an impervious coffin; or,
- Proper embalming (arterial and cavity) and placement in an impervious coffin;
- Proper embalming (arterial and cavity) and encasement in a plastic container
which has been sealed by heat or by adhesive materials prior to placement
in a non-impervious coffin.
Article 6. Human remains prepared for international shipment must be placed
in an impervious coffin. Where the cause of death was a quarantinable disease,
as defined in the International Sanitary Regulations, the human remains must
be embalmed (arterial and cavity) and placed in an impervious coffin.
The impervious coffin must thereupon be hermetically sealed and may be shipped
without any other covering (except in the case of shipment by sea), or for protective
purposes may be fitted in a wooden box, or one made of other material, so as
to prevent movement; or may be wrapped in a specially designed fabric.
TRANSPORTATION BY LAND, AIR OR SEA
Article 7. The following regulations shall apply to the transportation by rail:
- The impervious coffin may be transported in the baggage compartment of a
- Each country shall be responsible for fixing the time limit within which
the body must be removed at its final destination.
In case of transportation by road the impervious coffin must be conveyed preferably
in a closed hearse or failing such, in an ordinary closed van (truck) or automobile,
placed in such a way as to prevent movement.
The impervious coffin may be conveyed also in the baggage compartment of a
passenger aircraft or in a cargo aircraft and may be equipped with a vent or
safety valve provided that precautions are taken to prevent the escape of liquids
or nauseous gases.
In case of transportation by sea the impervious coffin, in order to preclude
movement, must be packed in an ordinary wooden case, or one made of other material,
or may be placed in specially designed fabric container.
Article 8. Regardless of the mode of transportation, wreaths, flowers and other
similar funeral articles may be sent with the coffin only when it is permitted
by the provisions in force in the country to which it is being sent.
Article 9. The above formalities may be reduced either through bilateral arrangements
or by joint decision in particular cases.
Article 10. The transportation of remains exhumed after the period established
in the local provisions in force have elapsed, and the transportation of ashes,
shall not be subject to health or other special measures.
- To recommend to the Governments that they apply the above mentioned regulations
in the way they deem most appropriate.
- To invite the Governments to inform the Bureau of the steps taken to implement
the above mentioned regulations so that he may report them to the other Governments
and to the Governing Bodies of the Organization.
- To urge the Director that he endeavour to ensure in the way he deems the
most appropriate that the Governments of the Organization take appropriate
measures to implement in their territories the regulations on International
Transportation of Human Remains mentioned in the first operative paragraph
of this resolution.
- To recommend to the Director that he transmit this resolution to the Director-General
of the World Health Organization.
DISASTER VICTIM IDENTIFICATION
BEARING IN MIND,
firstly, that a Working Party was set up to draft a Disaster Victim Identification
(DVI) Form (49th General Assembly session, Manila, 1980) and secondly that,
in view of the increasing importance of the subject, a Sub-Committee composed
of police officers, forensic pathologists and forensic odontologists was established
NOTING THAT the
said Sub-Committee has now finalised a modified and computerised version of
the DVI Form and a modified version of its associated DVI Guide (previously
DVI Manual), which should prove entirely satisfactory and which have been adopted
by the Working Party, now being recognised as the Interpol Standing Committee
basic human right of individuals to be properly identified after death and that
the identification of disaster victims continues to be of increasing international
importance with regard to police investigations, in addition to other legal,
religious and cultural requirements;
General Assembly, meeting in Antalya from 23rd October 1996 to 29th October
1996, at its 65th session:
ADOPTS the said
Form and its associated Guide;
all the Organisations member countries use the Disaster Victim Identification
Form in all appropriate circumstances including cases in which there is only
one victim to be identified;
Secretary General to adapt the DVI Form and the associated Guide whenever appropriate,
pursuant to technical developments and/or other professional needs in the field;
DECIDES THAT the
Working Party on DVI, now recognised as, and in the future to be named 'The
Interpol Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification', shall;
- Comprise representative police officers, forensic pathologists and forensic
odontologists, and may, from time to time co-opt specialists from other organisations
as appropriate (e.g. U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs, airline operators,
forensic science services).
- Consider relevant previous incidents, identifying technical developments
and experience from which improvements to procedures and standards in DVI
matters, including documentation, technology, computerisation, education and
training may be made.
- Ensure that the DVI Forms and Guide to DVI Procedures are maintained so
as to provide the best possible practical assistance and advice to member
- Make recommendations to enhance co-operation, liaison, information exchange
and practical assistance between member countries and with other relevant
national and international agencies and organisations when planning for, or
responding to, disasters.
- Meet regularly to achieve these aims and disseminate advice and recommendations
on good practice promptly to member countries.
- Establish a Disaster Victim Identification Team comprising suitable police
officers, forensic pathologists and forensic odontologists, or, as a minimum,
appoint an officer responsible for Disaster Victim Identification matters,
such teams or officers being the central contact point in their own countries
when their citizens are involved in a disaster, or when otherwise requested
to assist another member country.
- Regularly advise each other and the General Secretariat of DVI experiences
and lesson learnt from incidents.
- When appropriate seek the assistance, as participants or observers, of
DVI Liaison Officers and/or Teams from countries whose citizens are victims
of the disaster.
- Upon request from a member country, provide such DVI assistance as may
be necessary, to that member country.
- Provide the General Secretariat with relevant details of DVI Teams established
in their country.
- Co-operate closely so that decisions about the admission of foreign DVI
Teams/Officers can be taken rapidly.
REQUEST the Secretary
- Publish and make available to member countries the DVI Form and the associated
Guide to DVI procedures in the established Interpol languages.
- Maintain and circulate a list of DVI Teams/Officers in member countries.
- Periodically publish information on disasters, in particular, identification
- Bring to the attention of the Standing Committee any information supplied
by member countries.
- Maintain a list of DVI training courses in different countries and the
potential for participation by foreign trainees.
ABROGATES the following
- AN/37/RES/4 (1968) Disaster Victim Identification Form
- AGN/49/RES/2 (1980) Identification of Disaster Victims
- AGN/50/RES/3 (1981) Victim Identification Form
- AGN/51/RES/7 (1982) International Assistance in the Identification of Disaster
- AGN/55/RES/14 (1986) Identification of Disaster Victims
- AGN/58/RES/10 (1989) Disaster Victim Identification Form.
Draft Interpol Guidelines
One of the most important considerations in the aftermath of a disaster is
the relationship between bereaved families and the Police.
The term disaster in this context should be taken as any incident involving
a large amount of casualties and where a Disaster Victim Identification Co-ordinator
has been appointed.
These guidelines will not distinguish between types of incidents that may require
a DVI approach but will offer generic advice on Family Liaison in the immediate
aftermath, which is intended to make sure that families are treated appropriately,
with respect and according to their diverse needs.
The hours and days following a disaster tend to be very intense and confusing
for all concerned. None more so than the families of the missing who are desperately
in need of information.
Having reported their loved one missing it would be positively good practice
to appoint a Family Liaison Officer to the family.
The benefits of having this dedicated point of contact would be:
- To ensure the gathering of ante mortem information without delay.
- The urgent and accurate completion of Interpol DVI forms.
- That the gathering of any physical exhibits which could aid identification
are gathered in an appropriate manner which would stand up to forensic scrutiny
at home and abroad.
- That all relevant statements are taken from the family with regards lifestyle
- That at all times the family are furnished with timely, accurate and honest
information about the investigation/recovery operation.
- That FLOs will attempt to safely navigate the family through the workings
of the Justice System in order to prevent re-victimisation.
- That all requests by families to view their loved ones should be arranged
by the FLO where practicable.
- Visits to the scene.
- Information regarding support agencies is supplied to families.
- All dealings with the family should be recorded in the Family liaison Log
copies of which should be retained by the Investigation Team. This will ensure
that there is no duplication of requests made to the family, which could affect
the family's confidence in the procedure.
- Families should be consulted about any Police Media Strategy, which will
generate interest in them as a family.
INTERPOL DVI FAMILY LIAISON STRATEGY
To ensure the most effective investigation possible into the death of an individual
in a mass fatality incident, by the immediate implementation of a Family Liaison
Strategy, which will include the deployment of a trained Police Investigator
to every family, believed to have lost a relative in the incident.
This will facilitate the rapid and accurate identification of Disaster Victims
and human remains by timely collection and collation of Ante Mortem information.
By providing an investigative framework, which will facilitate the two way documented
flow of information between the DVI Commander and the family and the identification
of critical intelligence which will support the overall investigation, this
will include all relevant information to the family about the judicial process.
By agreeing a joint media strategy with the family which will encourage witnesses
to come forward whilst giving public and community reassurance in the investigative
Support from other agencies
Ensuring that families have access to information, which will enable them to
make informed decisions around the support/assistance that can be obtained from
other appropriate organisations.
What is a Family:
The identification of what makes up an individual's family is extremely important
to the delivery of the Family Liaison Function.
In law enforcement terms it is important to recognise the potentially wide
variations of the 'family' which can be influenced by culture, lifestyle and
just by preference.
In the context of this document the term family should include,
And others who have had a direct and close relationship with the victim.
Particular care should be taken to establish the wishes of the family at all
times with sensitivity and understanding exercised around families with diverse
Assumptions about the identification of a family should never be made and the
DVI Commander should try at all times to respond to the wishes of surviving
The Main Roles identified for the effective delivery of a Family Liaison Strategy:
The DVI Commander will be responsible for the overall strategy relating to
recovery, identification and repatriation issues. Family Liaison will fall within
this strategy and as such will require a distinct strategy of its own which
will serve to complement and enhance the overall effort.
The strategy should seek to address staffing levels, clear chains of command
and an agreed disclosure policy in order that only approved information is given
The Key Objectives of the Family Liaison strategy should be:
- Providing the family with as full and up to date information as possible
about the incident and its investigation.
- Obtaining full family background and other relevant details as directed
by the DVI Commander.
The level of disclosure to families should be as high as possible as at this
time they will be in desperate need for information and it is important that
the Police can identify themselves as the primary and most reliable source.
Efforts to do this will be appreciated by families and will help maintain their
confidence in the Police Operation.
The DVI Commander should appoint a Family Liaison Co-ordinator(s) to manage
the Family Liaison Officers both roles will be covered in this document.
Family Liaison Co-ordinator
DVI Commanders should consider appointing a supervisor to co-ordinate the work
of the Family Liaison Officers.
The role of the FLC will be to:
- Facilitate the delivery of the Family Liaison Strategy through acting as
a tactical advisor to the FLOs.
- Act as a channel for welfare support.
- Liase Nationally and Internationally to share and gather good practice,
which may assist.
- Monitor the workloads of FLOs to avoid burnout.
- Ensure that there is no duplication of effort, which would impact on resources
- Make that any necessary equipment such a vehicles and telephones are made
available to FLOs.
- Liase with other appropriate agencies in order to assist the exit of Police
FLOs at the relevant time with a seamless and efficient handover.
- Act as a quality assurance point for FLO work thereby ensuring that the
DVI Commander receives timely and accurate updates from the family contact.
- Ensure that all relevant paperwork from the FLOs is completed and submitted
in a timely and efficient manner.
- Support and advise the DVI Commander on issues relating to the delivery
of Family Liaison.
Family Liaison Officer
The role of the FLO involves the day to day management of the relationship
with the family in the investigation and close liaison with the co-ordinator
and the DVI Commander to ensure that families are treated appropriately, professionally
and in accordance with their diverse needs.
It may involve working in a variety of situations in very demanding and stressful
conditions over sustained periods of time.
It is essential that the FLOs are selected from volunteers who have the appropriate
skills and qualities.
All FLOs should already be trained to a standard of DVI awareness that would
allow them to have a full understanding of the ongoing operation. This is extremely
important, as they will need to explain these processes to a bereaved family.
They should also be able to explain the roles of the other key practitioners.
The primary role of the FLO will be that of an investigator. In performing
that role the FLO should be mindful of the boundaries that exist between offering
professional and practical support as opposed to offering personal and emotional
These are areas that the family should seek the support of other identified
appropriate agencies. The FLO may be able to assist in the identification of
The provision of an advice pack at the outset would be advantageous to the
FLO and would answer many of the questions the family may need answered over
a period of time.
The Co-ordinator should be able to assist in this process by doing much of
this research in the background whilst allowing the FLO to get on with the important
task of gathering Ante Mortem information.
Selection of people to act as FLOs
It is essential that the FLOs are primarily if not exclusively dedicated to
the task. To perform the function effectively they must be an integral part
of the DVI Team.
Consideration should be given to the deployment of a deputy FLO. Such a deployment
has benefits for the family and the investigation in that it provides for greater
resilience in the liaison function at times when the principal FLO is unavailable
due to sickness, leave, court commitments etc.
In considering the deployment of the FLOs the DVI Commander should take account
of the FLOs ability to perform that role effectively at that time.
The following circumstances will have a bearing on the selection process:
- A recent bereavement of a close relative or partner or other major life
- Frequency of recent deployment in the role.
- Existing workload.
- Availability - leave, court commitments etc
- Previous experience in the role.
On occasions, gender may be a critical factor for cultural reasons.
Where the victim's family are from a minority group or particular lifestyle
diversity, consideration should be given to the deployment of an FLO with particular
knowledge and experience of that community.
In the event of a terrorist incident, or other similarly motivated attack where
one or more minority communities have been affected advice should be sought
from community advocates when writing a Family Liaison Strategy in order that
it reflects the needs of those communities at that time.
At the end of any course designed for the training of FLOs the students should
be able to:
- Identify the main responsibilities of the FLO in relation to the overall
- Outline the responsibilities of the FLO in relation to the management of
Ante Mortem information.
- Outline the command structure in a DVI Incident.
- Explain the relationship between the Family Liaison Strategy and the overall
strategy as set out by the DVI Commander.
- Identify the main responsibilities of the Family Liaison Co-ordinator in
- Outline the potential issues in relation to ethnicity, culture and lifestyle
diversity when dealing with a bereaved family. E.g. Death rites, funerals
- Outline the processes that are usually involved with grieving and the effect
that an enquiry may have on this.
- Outline the role of Coroner or other judicial inquest within the context
of any particular incident.
- Explain the methods that may be used to identify a victim after a disaster.
- Outline issues relating to releasing bodies and post mortems.
- Explain the importance of collecting forensic samples correctly.
- Identify the issues that should be considered in relation to the return
- Outline the importance of accurate record keeping in their dealings with
- Outline the effect that media coverage could have on a bereaved family.
- Formulate a strategy that will enable them to exit from the family at the
- Recognise the circumstances when specialist intervention may be required.
- Identify tactical options for dealing with unexpected developments.
- Identify the assistance that might be given by the relevant support agencies
that are available to a family during and after an enquiry.
As with any deployment, the Family Liaison function needs to be included on
its own in any generic risk assessment.
This should be reviewed on a regular basis with particular attention being
paid to when the circumstances of the liaison change in respect of:
Have the family group changed in structure. Have other 'family members'
started to act as spokesperson for the family.
There is always potential for media intrusion inside a family.
Care must be taken to make sure that information is only given to the right
During the deployment the activities of the FLO with the family may change.
This can be due to new information, media intrusion or just developments
in the investigation.
It should be ensured at all times that any new activities not previously
undertaken by the FLO are subject to the same risk assessment.
If the Family Liaison function is to take place at a location that has
not previously been risk assessed this should be conducted immediately.
Every effort should be taken to establish as much information about any
premises and it's occupants.
The risk assessment should take into account any community tension that
may exist in that location.
The address where the liaison is taking place may be viewed for at least
part of the liaison function as the workplace of the FLO.
It is therefore crucial that the environment is not detrimental to their
This would obviously be affected if anyone at the address was suffering
from a contagious disease or if the home contained any hazardous substances.
On a more subtle level however this could also include any changes to dynamics
within the family and between the Police and the family, which could make
working within the family home a more risky environment.
Much of this assessment work can be carried out by the FLO themselves as they
go about their business but it is the duty of the FLO Co-ordinator and the DVI
Commander to ensure that they are regularly reviewed as part of the overall
management and supervision function.
It should also be emphasised that the 'risk' that is referred to is not meant
as that which applies only to the individual FLO but to any risk that has been
identified by means of the Family Liaison function that could cause potential
harm to the confidence of the family and the broader community in the overall
Communication with the family
It is extremely important that the appointed Family Liaison Officer(s) become
the primary point of contact with the family.
The needs of the investigation have to be balanced against the needs of the
bereaved. Previous experience has shown that one of the most difficult things
that families have had to endure after a disaster has been the constant requests
for information from them from many different sources.
There may be a limit to which the Police can resolve this with other agencies
but we can at least make sure that there are no duplication of requests to families
from the Police by making sure that any requests of the family are fed through
the FLO and marked up according to their priority.
This way the FLO can make sure that long periods of time are not spent on issues
that can be resolved later.
The role of the FLO Co-ordinator can be influential in achieving this aim by
prioritising requests to the FLO.
There may be times throughout the investigation when the families request a
meeting with the DVI Commander. In the event of mass fatalities the DVI Commander
may be unable to see families individually, therefore it may be advantageous
for the DVIC to bring the families together to be given periodic briefings,
which can be arranged by the FLOs in order to meet the needs of all parties.
All communication with the family whether by telephone or in person must be
recorded in a way that can be reproduced later for supervision and examination.
It is recommended that an FLO create a log of communications with the family
which can show at a glance the history of the Police/Family relationship.
Any requests made by the family or concerns that have been raised should be
recorded and brought to the attention of the Co-ordinator as soon as possible.
If for any reason the Police cannot resolve the families concerns then a full
explanation should be given to the family as to why and this must be subsequently
recorded in the Family Liaison Officers log.
Copies of the FLO log should be handed to the FLO Co-ordinator in order that
they can be submitted to the investigation and that any other actions arising
from that interaction can be raised.
A separate FLO log must be completed for each family. These should be retained
by the FLO during the investigation and handed in at the end.
Family and the Media
The media will always have a major part to play in the aftermath of a mass
The 24hr media coverage that is available now has ensured that images from
the scene of a disaster can be in people's homes within minutes of it happening.
The DVI Commander will have to balance the need to use the media to generate
information and intelligence with the need to protect the family from unwarranted
It is important therefore that any media strategy that is generated by the
Police has been discussed in advance with the family.
This will include the release of photographs, which may have been given to
Police by the family.
Video records showing family members should also be shown to the family first
and the evidential value of releasing them to the media explained to the family.
Having a dedicated Media Officer will help take this pressure off the DVI Commander
and could also assist the FLO with briefings to the family about developing
issues likely to appear in the press.
The FLO on behalf of the DVI Commander should discourage the family from having
an independent media strategy emphasising the need for a jointly agreed strategy.
It is the responsibility of the FLO to keep the DVI Commander aware of any
issues arising within the family that could cause adverse media attention.
Family Assistance Centres
In the event of a large scale disaster where the families end up making their
way to the area, it may be advisable to consider setting up a central resource
This would assist Police and families alike by having a focal point where relatives
could attend for information and aid.
In the short term this could help to maximise the Family Liaison effort by
having FLO resources available to capture all the ante mortem information as
well as forensic samples in the immediate aftermath.
By its very nature this type of resource would need the involvement of other
agencies. However it would allow families to make informed choices about what
their immediate needs were.
Trips to the scene could be organised in such a way that they did not interfere
with any rescue or recovery work that was going on.
Also it would minimise the risk of relatives just turning up unaccompanied
at the scene which can be harrowing and disruptive to DVI Teams working there.
Suitable premises would have to be identified that were not too near the scene
but had sufficient effective transport links.
A more in depth plan of such a resource can be made available if required.
The primary role of the Police FLO is that of investigator.
Therefore it is necessary for all the key practitioners in the delivery of
a Family Liaison Strategy to recognise when that role is finished.
The FLO Co-ordinator and the DVI Commander should have no problem in identifying
when this happens.
However the FLO can sometimes if not supervised appropriately become over involved
with a bereaved family.
That is why the role of the FLO needs to be explained thoroughly to the family
at the outset.
The FLO should keep the family updated in order that the family are aware that
contact will eventually end.
The FLO Co-ordinator must be checking regularly that the exit strategy is being
Failure to do this may encourage the family to become over dependant on the
Police when their actual needs can now be met better by other non-police agencies.
It is also important that the FLO is allowed for their own benefit to step
away from the family at the end of the investigation.
A well managed, well supervised FLO Team should not necessarily suffer any
ill effects from conducting their role. However it is essential that they be
given the same access as other practitioners performing key roles as regards
Debriefing of officers must be mandatory at the end of an incident.
This will help maintain their welfare and also draw out any operational issues
that may need to be reviewed prior to any subsequent deployment.
It will also help to ensure that learning takes place within the organisation
every time we deal with a disaster.
The provision of Police Family Liaison following a disaster is essential in
effectively managing the two-way flow of information.
It allows for more effective media handling
Faster more reliable identification and repatriation
Better inter-agency co-operation to benefit of families
Family/Community/Media confidence in the work of the Police
Family Liaison Advisor
In order to ensure quality support to member countries, in the early days of
implementation, it is recommended that Interpol Headquarters Lyon maintain a
database of those with recognised expertise in this area.
The database would enable access to up to date experience in this field, which
may assist member countries.
Any Family Liaison Co-ordinator could therefore be able to seek advice or share
recent experience with other similar practitioners.
This could enhance the role of Interpol in providing International assistance
whilst providing member countries with an extra resource following a mass disaster.
This could also however feed into the Interpol Secure Website, which could
maintain a library of resource material.
As we increasingly live in a multi cultural society the benefit of being able
to share our combined knowledge with each other to the benefit of our citizens
could certainly assist in a unique and dynamic way.
Every disaster impacts upon families, every disaster impacts upon communities.
It is indiscriminate in who it affects.
Managing the diverse nature of the challenges before us will be greatly enhanced
by working together.